Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Cookies!

There's nothing about Christmas Cookies that wouldn't warrant an exclamation point at the end. They're festive, sugary cutouts in all various shapes, slathered in buttercream frosting and dusted with all kinds and colors of sprinkles. They make me so happy, just to look at or to pop one in my mouth... for me it's on the top of my "Christmas is here" checklist. My Mom makes them each year, but this was the first time I'd been around early enough to help decorate in a few years, and so tonight, my first evening at home, my Texas home, we sat and decorated.
And no matter where I am I will always have a Texas cookie cutter
Sugar Cookie
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbl. milk
1. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with flour. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet or parchment, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack. Serve as is or ice as desired.

Gingerbread Cookies
3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 ts ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly milled black pepper
8 Tbl. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 c. vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
2/3 c. unsulfured molasses
1 large egg
1. Preheat to 350 degrees F. Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper and set aside. In a large bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer at high speed, beat the butter and vegetable shortening until well-combined, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light in texture and color, about 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses and egg. Using a wooden spoon, gradually mix in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into two thick disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. (The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.)

2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until just warm enough to roll out without cracking, about 10 minutes. (If the dough has been chilled for longer than 3 hours, it may need a few more minutes.) Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick, being sure that the dough isn't sticking to the work surface. For softer cookies, roll out slightly thicker. Using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and transfer to nonstick cookie sheets, placing the cookies 1 inch apart.

3. Bake, switching the positions of the cookies from top to bottom and back to front halfway through baking, until the edges of the cookies are set and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire to cool completely.

Buttercream Frosting
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream
1. In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency. Seperate and add various food coloring to create different colors for decorating.

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